Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne illness that attacks the liver. If left untreated, HCV can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. The virus can live outside the body at room temperature and on environmental surfaces for up to three weeks. HCV is generally not checked for during routine blood work, so tell your healthcare provider you want to be tested.
HCV spreads from blood-to-blood contact. It can even be spread by a small amount of blood that is invisible to the naked eye.
Sharing needles or straws for recreational drugs, sharing items like razors or toothbrushes, needlestick injuries in healthcare, sexual contact, unsterilized tattoo equipment, and having received a blood transfusion, organ transplant, or long-term kidney dialysis before 1992.
People can live with HCV for years and even decades with absolutely no symptoms. By the time there are symptoms, liver damage is often well advanced. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, fatigue, jaundice, nausea, dark urine, gray-colored bowel movements, loss of appetite, and joint pain.
Yes! Recent advances have led to a cure rate of around 95%, but it’s important to get tested and start treatment before any symptoms show. Modern HCV medication is taken by mouth and is as simple as one tablet taken once per day with minimal side-effects.
Be informed. Know if you or someone you love should get tested. It’s quick, easy, and helps keep you and others healthy.
If you test positive for HCV, your healthcare provider will have you come in for follow up blood work. Once the blood work returns from the lab, your healthcare provider will get you started on a treatment plan that will work best for you. You will receive counseling about your medication, how it should be taken, and the importance of adhering to your treatment plan. When the treatment is complete, you will have a follow up with your healthcare provider three months later to make sure you are HCV-free, and if so, you are cured!
If you have insurance: Even though HCV treatment is expensive, private insurance usually covers the majority of the price. With the help of co-pay assistance programs and medical foundations, most people pay little to nothing for their treatment.
If you are uninsured: There are Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) available for patients who are uninsured which usually help cover most of the cost.
If you have Medicaid: Medicaid coverages vary by state and the stage of the disease. Some states do cover most of the cost.
Even if you aren’t at risk, based on the stats, you probably know someone who is.
HCV can be cured, but it still kills nearly 400,000 people each year and has even begun impacting new communities that were previously not at risk. HCV is often under the radar. There are whole communities, like Baby Boomers, who don’t realize they should be tested. Others, like intravenous drug users, simply don’t understand their risk or don’t think of themselves as part of a risk group.
By knowing our own risk and helping friends and family know theirs, we can change the stats and end the rise of Hepatitis C.